Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Winey Nights Out: Find Your Local Wine Bar and Uncork!

As you may know if you read this blog regularly, I am the parent of a West Point Cadet. Go Army! Beat Navy! OK, now I can continue.

Since West Point is not your typical college experience, to say the least, the parents of the Cadets come together in Parents' Clubs across the country. The Winey Hubby and I are blessed to have an amazing group of parents in our Ohio area. They are there for support and encouragement and to answer any questions about the school, the Army and military life in general.

wine bottles outdoor shot Hob Nob, Parker Station, Hayman & Hill, Meeker Wine, Borealis White
The evening line-up
Oh and did I mention that they are a ton of fun? Maybe more than a ton, but that's all I'm admitting to in writing! It's a beautiful thing when you join a club and find some genuine friends there. I mean, sure we all have West Point in common, but when that common thread becomes a true friendship? I'll toast to that.

So about a week ago, some of these wonderful friends and I and the Winey Hubby had a get together at a local haunt, Riverside Wine & Beer Bar, in Kent, Ohio. I am going to speak about this bar in particular, but I just know that you all have such venues near you. Very casual, very relaxing, great selection of nibbles and bites and an amazing wine list. Riverside's patio has a gorgeous view of the Cuyahoga River and nearby train tracks. It's also a wine store, and on certain nights there are no corkage fees. A corkage fee is charged by an establishment for opening and serving your bottle of wine. It applies to wines you bring in yourself from outside. But since Riverside is also a store, it's so much fun on "no corkage nights" to wander around the store, pick your bottle and have them serve it to you on that gorgeous patio.

So, eight of us settled in on the patio for lovely summer evening of sipping and talking and nibbling. We decided that the best way to sip was for each of us to pick a bottle and share it with everyone. Kind of like our own impromptu wine tasting. This is the best way to do these type of nights because you wind up drinking wines you'd never think to try. It's a win-win situation all around.

First up for me was Borealis White Wine (2011, 11.5%, Oregon). I was very happy to discover that this was an Oregon wine, as so many people have so many good things to say about that region. It's a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer and is as crisp and bright and lively as The Northern Lights it's named after! One to buy if you like lighter (not really sweet) whites.

Next up was Parker Station Pinot Noir (2010, 13.5%, Central Coast, CA). And by Parker I mean Fess Parker, the actor who will forever be thought of as Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone! The friend who chose it said he wanted me especially to try it, since we share a love of red wine. This was a lovely Pinot Noir - plum and cherry and toasty oak. Another success story in my search for a good Pinot Noir.

I love hearing how people pick out wines, and my girlfriend, after wandering through the store, decided upon Hayman & Hill Meritage (2010, 13.5%, Monterey Co, CA).
Why did she chose it? Because the winemakers names were the same as one of her married sisters! A fine reason as far as I'm concerned! Meritage must be made from at least 2 grapes on the "approved" Meritage label, and these folks went above and beyond that! It's a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc! Lots of berry flavors in this, but the oakiness saves it from being too fruity. If I had to say, this was my least favorite of the bunch, but to be fair, it was going up with some stiff competition.

My contribution to the evening was Hob Nob Chardonnay (2010, 13.5%, France). I found it in the store, and since Hob Nob's Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines (see Winey Tasting Notes: I REALLY Needed Some Hob Nob Pinot Noir) , I decided it was high time we checked out its sister wine. Pear and oak, with a hint of cinnamon dominate this one. It's not a light Chardonnay of the unoaked variety, but it's not big and buttery either. It falls somewhere in the middle. A great wine chilled and sipped with all that cheese and sausage we ordered.

And last but not at all least, out came Blankenheim's Frankenstein Formula 5 (Meeker Wines) (NV, 14.6%, CA). The absolute hit of the evening with everyone there. It is a red blend of 11, yes I said 11, red wines: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Malbec. No wonder they call it Frankenstein - cobbled together from so many different parts, but a wonderful creation in the end (yes, I consider Frankenstein to be a great creation - book or movie, you choose.)  A very high alcohol content but such a well balanced wine that we didn't know what hit us. The flavor was dark fruits with some green spices (thyme, oregano) and a touch of oak to give it some body. A big red, sure - but not a scary one (despite its namesake). Very drinkable. As we proved dutifully. (see picture for number of bottles)

So thus ends my winey travels through a very entertaining and educational evening with friends. I encourage you all to find your own local wine bar and sip away an evening with friends. It'll do your heart (and your taste buds) good!


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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No Conundrums About It: 2013 Cleveland Wine Festival Was A Perfect Vintage

Conundrum: noun \kə-ˈnən-drəm\  a confusing or difficult question or problem
I am happy to report that my visit to the 2013 Cleveland Wine Festival did not pose any conundrums at all. Logistical problems, such as how do we visit all these booths in one night, sure. But not one hard to solve, nerve wracking problem.
Well, actually, I guess there was one Conundrum, but this one came in a bottle (2011, 13.5%, CA)!
Conundrum Red Wine bottle shotA little back story to this evening. The Winey Hubby and I visited Winefest with one of our very favorite Winey Couples. The husband in this couple is a red wine lover, like myself. The wife tends toward the lighter sweeter wines, just like the Winey Hubby does. So the four of us spent a good part of the evening explaining that no, we weren't married and our spouses were at another tent sipping away, one ounce at a time, the wines they really loved. We did stay in near proximity to each other though...until Winey Friend and I hit the Wagner Family of Wines tent and ran straight into said conundrum.
This is only the second vintage of Conundrum Red released, and it goes fast and furious, as it will be the only one this year. (insert your frowny face here) My Winey pal knew of the wine, since it seems that at a party we were all that, someone had brought a bottle of Conundrum and he got to taste some of it. After sipping this one, I immediately accused him of holding out at the party and threatened his life if he ever did so to me again. This was seriously one of the best wines I have tasted  - red, white, USA, France - no contest - it was amazing. The nose started out with a teeny whiff of bacon laced with chocolate. (DO NOT make that face, it's a wonderful combo.) The taste was about mocha and cherry. It felt like silk in my mouth. The finish lasted quite a while, but you really couldn't taste anything tannic in it - just the mocha cherry flavors. I will tell you that this wine is a bit pricier than most I write about - in the $20-$30 range, depending on where and when you buy it (it is on special at times for the $20) but I loved it so much I just had to share it with you!
label shot of Meiomi Pinot Noir
Needless to say, we stayed at this booth for a bit, leaving our respective spouses to wander off in search of a strawberry wine cocktail that had been recommended to them. We got to talking with the folks from Wagner Family Wines, and they made us try (yeah, made we argued) a Pinot Noir that they had there as well.
This particular Pinot is called Meiomi (2012, 13.8%, CA). It runs about $20 as well, and penny for penny, it is another amazing wine to spend the money on! It's a pretty garnet color and gives off aromas of berry and cherry and oak. The taste is WOW! (Seriously, I wrote that in my wine notes from the night.) All jammy and cherry and that touch of light oakiness. Pinot Noir can be a bit of a diva wine, and I have a hard time finding good ones, so this was quite a find for my taste buds. The next time I sip this, it will be on my patio with a plate of blue and goat cheeses in front of me. Or when I sit down to a lamb chop dinner. My oh my!
The Winey Foursome with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
in the background
photo credit: some very nice person that stopped sipping long
enough to take our picture
Now, these were obviously not the only two wines we sipped all evening long. But they were without a doubt the standouts. Others that we liked were Bogle's Essential Red and the Old Vine Zinfandel. Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon (aptly named Opulent) and our spouses were all about St. James Winery and their fruit wines, which were served as some yummy wine cocktails.
A note about the Festival: The perfect night to be on Cleveland's lakefront. The temperature was just right (light sweaters) and the sky was clear and blue ending in starlight. There was a very tempting array of food on hand as well (we went for the gyros from Parma's Original Greek Gyro - messy, but worth it). The exhibitors were friendly and generous with their pours and the live music was very danceable (just ask me and my Winey Girlfriend). All in all, a wonderful night was had and sipped by all. Not a Clevelander? I'm sure your city has a wine festival or at least a nearby one, and  I would highly suggest an evening out there. They are great places to try new wines and learn about wine in general.
See you at next year's Festival!!

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Winey Event Alert: It's Time for The 2013 Cleveland Wine Festival!

I'm going to ask those of you who don't live near Cleveland to indulge me here. Because for those of us who abide in or near to northeast Ohio, we are coming up on one of my favorite weekends of the summer: The Cleveland Wine Fest! This Fest is turning 8 years old this year and is being held at Voinovich Park in downtown Cleveland. The park is smack dab next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Museum and runs along North Coast Harbor. So you've got wine, rock music and a harbor view. Sounds like a winner to me!

Cleveland Wine Festival with the city
lights in the background

I love these kind of festivals, because you get to sample so many new wines that if you were to take them one bottle at a time, would take months, if not years. Even at my pace. And the list of wines for sipping this year is impressive, if not daunting!

I am looking forward to meeting some new wines and wineries and tasting some offerings from some of my favorite wineries. So, you will definitely see me at the Oliver Winery table. (Winey Tasting Notes: Oliver Moscato From Indiana? Yup!) They are one of the groundbreaking wineries in the great state of Indiana. I loved their Moscato, and they have some yummy sounding wines up for tasting (Honey Peach and Soft Red? yum!). I also will be at The Wine Group's table. These are the folks that bring us Cupcake wines and I am a HUGE fan of Cupcake's Red Velvet (Winey Tasting Notes: Pass Me The Red Velvet Cupcake Please!!) and I am really looking forward to trying some Save Me San Francisco Hella Fine Merlot, courtesy of the band Train. Not just because I love that line in the song and the band...but I ask you, who could pass up a hella fine merlot? I will be stopping by the Trinchero Family Estates table as well, simply because these are the people that bring us one of my favorite naughty wine names ever: Menage A Trois Red (Winey Tasting Notes: The Naughty Wine Names Series: Menage a Trois Red.) Their Bandit and Seaglass lines are definitely on my radar. And of course, the Winey Hubby and I will visit the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, because way back when, Chateau St. Michelle was the very first winery we visited in Washington State.

Let's not forget that June is Ohio Wine Month, so the folks at Debonne Vineyards will be seeing us at their booth. (Blueberry noir? Yes please!) As will the Ferrante Winery gang and their Raspberry Blanc. And I will never be one to pass up a chance at Meier's Wine Cellars Sinful Sangria (Meier's is in Cincinnati, but we'll let them in just because we are so nice up here in Cleveland.) Other Ohio wineries include Raven's Glen, Laurello Vineyards and Maize Valley.

And for those of you who (gasp!) prefer your wine to be beer, there will also be quite a bit of that brew on hand or in mug, as the case may be. Stella Artois will be presenting a "Best of Belgium Tour" and Goose Island beer will be there with some new festival brews. There, I gave the other side its due time. Now let's go back to wine.

There will of course, be food and entertainment to round out the festival. My only question to all you Winey Cleveland Readers is: when will you be going? The Festival runs Friday from 4:00-10:00 p.m. and Saturday from 2:00-8:00 p.m. For all the Winey details, check out the Wine Festival website , their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

Hope to see you there!


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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Brightening Things Up With Sequin(s)

I'm going to take you back in time here - about a month. I'm trolling strolling through Target minding my own business when out pops a polka dot bottle of wine. I swear, it's true. Just jumped right out at me and begged "Buy me." It obviously knew that I have a thing for polka dots. I love them. From blouses to belts to Ipad covers, just can't get enough of them. So I simply had to put the bottle in my cart. I did however, look to see what kind of wine it was, first. I have some integrity, after all.

pictures of Sequin Wines bottles moscato, pinot grigio, rose, sheer delight white
Pretty polka dot bottles
It turned out to be a bottle of Sequin Delicately Bubbled Sheer Delight White Wine (2011, 9.5%, CA). I just loved that expression "delicately bubbled", don't you? It hints of very refined, well behaved bubbles just bouncing around the bottle, all dressed up and wearing white gloves. Sequin makes a whole line of delicately bubbled wines (Moscato, Rose and Pinot Grigio), but Sheer Delight is for us discriminating Target addicts.

It just so happened that this purchase was made right before Mother's Day. And really, there's nothing better for Mom (me) to end her day with a glass or two or whatever of wine while she opens her gifts. But this is Mother's Day in The Winey Northeast Ohio Household. It started out with The Winey Hubby, Daughter and me walking out of church...and into a very heavy snow shower. Yup. Snow shower. The fact that I had just come out of church was probably what saved me from spewing forth a number of words that you just shouldn't be saying on church grounds.

And since it was May, of course, The Winey Daughter had a soccer game scheduled. Because spring soccer does not care that it's Mother's Day. Or that it's really winter. So, being the shameless person that I am, I totally pulled the Mother's Day card and told the Winey Hubby that the best gift he could give me would be to take the Winey Daughter to her game while I snuggled with the Winey Doggies at home. Being the extremely intelligent Winey Hubby that he is, he agreed.

So I sipped on this lovely bottle of wine covered by a fleece throw and two dogs on my couch, book in hand. The game was, of course, scheduled during the dinner hour, so I was waiting for my Mother's Day take out to arrive home.

And what a Mother's Day treat this was! Sheer Delight's bouquet contains hints of cantaloupe and minerals. It tastes flowery around the edges, but with pear in the middle. Lovely combo! And those bubbles really are tiny and delicate. They gave it a very classy feel - no pop rock bubbles here - this was a classy sip! The finish was sweet and light.

I would buy this wine again and again. It is sweet, but the bubbles keep it from being overly sweet. And at 9.5%, it's lower in alcohol too. So you can indulge without over-indulging! It was the perfect antidote for a Mother's Day that ended with us running around covering all the plants with sheets and towels. Hey, if you can't have spring outside, you might as well drink it, right? (Check out the website, too. They have some amazing cocktail recipes you can make with the wines!)


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